Part 3A: Learning Centers
Teachers prepare the environment with care and intention so children can learn through active involvement with various materials, other students and teachers. Numerous learning centers both inside and outside the classrooms are available on a daily basis for children to choose from, e.g., table & carpet manipulatives, blocks, dramatic play, creative and representational art, singing/dancing/instruments, woodworking, gross & fine motor equipment, including large and small loose parts to ignite creativity and collaboration, animals to both observe and care for (besides the many insects and tiny critters in our garden), Maker Space and STEAM explorations (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), math games and puzzles, library/book corner, bookmaking, writing center, play structure, sand & water and other sensory explorations, our cement court that functions as an open-ended space for all manner of activities, e.g., ball games, parachute games, obstacle courses, bubble explorations, airplane making and throwing, creating chalk drawings, and, of course, running and chasing games and jumping in puddles when it rains! See our Gallery: S.T.E.A.M experiences for photos and videos
These child-centered learning areas are designed to be creative, open-ended, process-oriented experiences which span the various stages of development of 3 – 5/6 yr olds, allowing each child to pursue self-directed activities which are appropriate to their personal development, skills, and interest level. Depending on the goals and needs of the activity or children, teachers observe and move among individuals and groups to increase personal connection, offer conversation, and the well-timed comment or question to deepen engagement, validate and facilitate their thinking and ideas, extend creativity, support skill development, and problem solving.
With opportunities for self-selection and self-direction, children learn to recognize the importance of their actions as they experience the effects of their choices. Herein lies the difference between growth-producing freedom and chaos. Entrusting responsibility to the child encourages self-awareness, recognizing other’s needs and perspectives, de-centering, collaboration, communication skills, community building, problem solving, decision making, autonomy, and a feeling of competence and trust in oneself.